Savage Found

Three decades after, Miami's great rock bands hit the spotlight again

At the end of September last year, the Fog was formed and set about "trying to recapture music that had integrity," Sams explains. "The songs of that era had political messages, verbiage with meaning and feeling, more so than today's kind of music. Today's music is missing the message." Yesterday's sociopolitical approach to righting wrongs has been supplanted by a more immediate response to problems: Blow the offending son of a bitch away in a drive-by.

The Reawakening album was completed in the third week of October and the Fog scheduled a live performance in Old Fort, North Carolina the day after the sessions ended. Some 350 people showed up. "We began practicing seven nights a week, playing at festivals," Sams says. "But we haven't really broken out of our shell yet. That'll happen when we come to Florida." (Sams did visit a while back to appear on Evan Chern's radio show on WDNA-FM [88.9].) The band will be playing several dates this week and next at local venues.

"This fan club sprang up," Sams says from his home in Old Fort. "We didn't start it. Now it has 150 members based in Asheville." That's remarkable. Then again, when you hear the Fog's music, maybe it's not so remarkable. Count me as member 151.

This isn't classic rock, it's vintage rock. Guitars and bass and drums and charismatic singing and melodies and hooks and -- real rock and roll as it always has been meant to be played. Songs of great diversity sharing a common thread. The good stuff. Timeless. Immortal.

Though the Fog might still be in its Old Fort shell, Nashville's Sun Entertainment offered the group a deal. "If Sun gets a deal for us in Europe," Sams says, "then we'll sign with them exclusively for Europe. We're still a free agent in the States. Sun is strictly handling distribution here."

Inside Edition dispatched correspondent Joel Loy and crew to tape a segment involving the Fog back in September. It hasn't aired yet, and the show's managing editor says it's still not scheduled to.

While former TV stars and Fog album guests Peterson and Boone are suited to splashy television programs -- they've both gotten nostalgic on sundry daytime gabfests like Geraldo -- Sams is not. Though articulate and candid, Sams is no blabbermouth.

I had to drag from him his personal background, how he came to leave behind Miami's rock scene to end up in the boondocks as an attorney and businessman. Sams was born in Charlotte, came to Miami at age five, and he decided to become a cop in 1969, after the Squires disbanded, when he went to the police academy. He became a patrolman (once busting some pot smokers who recognized him as the Squires's drummer), then a detective. He remained in Miami until October of 1972, when he found out the Army was set to draft him. He immediately volunteered, Special Forces, and served for nine years. He took advantage of the service's educational opportunities, dreaming of continuing a career in law enforcement. But Sams could not continue as a police officer; instead he worked his way through several schools to obtain a law degree. He took a job with Melvin Belli in San Diego that lasted until 1984, when he "retired" and went back home to North Carolina.

Yes, I had the same question: Why couldn't he go back to being a cop? "I had a disability." A disability? "Yes, 40 percent disabled." Um, well, uh, which 40 percent of you? "My lungs." Your lungs? "Yes." Eventually the truth comes out: While serving with the Special Forces in Vietnam, Sams was, in his word, "gassed."

Many of the players in Miami's Sixties have stories to tell (and many got the chance in Lemlich's book). For instance, the band Evil destroyed the stage after covering the Who's "My Generation" during the 1966 Youth Fair's battle of the bands A and still ended up winning the contest. But censorship was also a problem. As a reminder of that earlier era, the new Fog album has the Montells (featuring Steve Bates) version of the Pretty Things's "Don't Bring Me Down." Sams decided to include the Montells's original recording of the song on the Fog album, complete with the censor's bleeps. The offending word: "lay." The key line where that word is bleeped: "when I A- her on the ground."

Some things change, some don't. A question I have to ask myself during the early stages of the Fog's ever-expanding reawakening: In 1994 is this just another desperate grasp at nostalgia, or viable music for a new generation? I feel strongly it's the latter, but time will tell.

"We tried to update without losing the Sixties vitality," offers Sams. "The anti-establishment thing is still alive. But young people don't understand what they're protesting. For kids in the Sixties, the issues were simpler. We were more aware and understood better the unpopular war and Kent State and the things government did. The government still does that stuff, but today, as a response, the youth has a more violent overtone. Ours wasn't violent, it was a message that we weren't happy. We let people know we had other ideas." Even their songs from 30 years ago retain their iconoclastic edge. The new Fog album, for example, includes a song called "LSD." I know what you're thinking, but the point of the tune is contained in the chorus: "I don't need no LSD."

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